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‘America’s Next Top Model’ recap: And then there were two

November 17, 2010 | 10:59 pm


On most reality shows, as the pool of competitors gets whittled down and the challenges get less zany, you tend to get more invested in the characters. Not so on this season of ‘Top Model.’ As the show progressed, the models with the liveliest personalities and most villainous streaks—Ana Maria, Chris, Kacey, Rhianna—were cut one by one. Catfights are at a minimum. Miss Jay’s fashion has barely registered on the bizarre-o-meter. Andre Leon Talley seems asleep at the panel most of the time. It all seems too serious to be much fun. Has this cycle’s focus on high fashion sapped the show of its jubilant, gossipy energy?

Though tonight’s episode should have been a high point of tension—it was a double elimination! In Italy! A hair away from the finals!—it turned into a slack-jawed snoozefest. The ladies went to see acting coach Barbara Terrinoni, who put the girls through their emoting paces and had some sharp, sweetly-accented barbs for the models. “Are you alive?” she asked the perpetually tear-stained, waifish Ann. When Ann began to smile, Terrinoni practically recoiled: “Not like Frankenstein!” 

All that wailing and gnashing of teeth was apparently to prepare the final four for a meeting with Franca Sozzani, editor-in-chief of Vogue Italia. None of them made too favorable an impression on Sozzani, but Chelsey won because she thought to introduce some of her Midwestern background into the conversation, rather than nervously naming the photographers they had worked with on the season. Her prize? A viewing of “The Last Supper” with Andre Leon Talley, who swept into the room in bespangled wizard gear, ushered Chelsey and Kayla to their viewing, and gave Chelsey a fevered, art-induced hug. Both girls also got a night in a seven-star hotel, an accreditation that seemed mostly made up. Meanwhile, Ann and Jane feasted on vodka and Chinese food while staring at a napkin drawing of “The Last Supper.” 

The big challenge of the week was one where the models acted as guinea pigs in Tyra’s creative experiments. Judges’ pet projects are always the weakest challenges in reality shows—Heidi Klum’s activewear challenge on the last season of "Project Runway" came to mind—and this one was very weak indeed. Tyra, interested in adding “film director” to her already prodigious resume, hustled the ladies around an Italian villa and filmed them posing. Lights, camera...but no action. The result was a mixture of a soundless 1980s music video, a celebrity perfume commercial, and a freshman’s film studies project. The models ran in willowy dresses, whipped their hair, rolled across a hedge and whispered their own names through fishnet veils. At the end, they had to pose, weeping, curled in a corner. I don’t think it was meant to be funny. 

Even leaving aside the faults of Tyra’s camerawork, it was no great shakes as a challenge. As a test of modeling ability, it was specious at best. As an incitement for drama, it failed miserably. None of the ladies excelled, nor did any of them unravel. When the judges gathered at panel, it seemed like they had made their decision long before the actual challenge. The photo consideration was merely a formality. Unsurprisingly, Ann was the first to make it to the finals. For all her shyness, there was no way that she wasn’t at least going to be in the running. No surprise either that Jane didn’t make it to the end—she was barely hanging on for weeks. Chelsey’s frosty determination beat out Kayla’s zippy personality and fire-red hair, and then we were left with the last girls running. I’m still not sure that Ann will take it, but I have to say, Chelsey never seemed particularly high fashion to me. Who’s going to be the new face of Vogue Italia?

Tyra fashion watch: I liked her outfit during the editorial shoot—strapless floral gown, straw hat and a tangle of interesting jewelry—but I wasn’t crazy about her tan-and-black outfit at the judge’s table, which was pretty unflattering. 

Best quote:
“She saw a crack in the robot that I am” – Jane
“I want snap boom boom snap!” –Mr. Jay, giving mysterious directions at the shoot

--Margaret Eby

Photo: Ann, Jane, Chelsey and Kayla gather for their "editorial in motion" with Tyra.

Credit: Ivano Grasso/The CW